Three groups working to survey bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains are seeking volunteers to assist in the annual sheep count March 1 and 2.
The survey is conducted annual by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep. No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must attend a mandatory orientation 6 p.m., Saturday, March 1 at the Angeles National Forest supervisor’s office in Arcadia. The count will take place on the following day.
Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from either CDFW, USFS or the Society. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although some survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.
Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.
Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined to less than 100 animals through the 1980s but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.
Volunteers can sign up online at http://www.sangabrielbighorn.org/San_Gabriel_Bighorn_Sheep_Home.html. If you do not have access to the Internet, you may call either 909-627-1613 or 909-584-9012 to receive a volunteer packet.